24 Tone Clocks
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Featuring: Michael Houstoun
(piano, tracks 1-6, 19-24) Diedre Irons
(piano, tracks 7-18)
Produced by Kenneth Young
Recorded by Steve Garden at the Adam Concert Room (NZMS, Victoria University, Wellington)
Design by UnkleFranc
Printing by Studio Q
Featuring two of New Zealand's finest pianists, Jenny McLeod's 24 Tone Clocks
is the definitive recording of an extraordinary series of compositions. A lifetime in the making, 24 Tone Clocks
is a summation of Jenny's decades-long immersion into Peter Schat's 'tone clock' theory of chromatic harmony.
In the early 80s Peter Schat introduced Jenny to his compositional theories, and she immediately recognised many ideas she had already discovered for herself. "It dawned on me
," says Jenny, "that Schat had come up with the basis for a new terminology and framework of thinking with reference to the (equal-tempered 12-note) chromatic system—something that I felt was not only simple, practical and workable, but also fresh and full of imaginative potential for the composer. Later in Amsterdam, Schat showed me the rest of his writings, which were largely in Dutch. I came home and immediately started learning Dutch, so as to translate and understand all of it. These translations were eventually published in English as Peter Schat’s
The Tone Clock."
RAT-D066 (November, 2016)
24 TONE CLOCKS
01 Tone Clock Piece I
02 Tone Clock Piece II
03 Tone Clock Piece III
04 Tone Clock Piece IV
05 Tone Clock Piece V
(3:46) 1988, a.k.a. Vive Messiaen!
06 Tone Clock Piece VI
07 Tone Clock Piece VII
08 Tone Clock Piece VIII
09 Tone Clock Piece IX
10 Tone Clock Piece X
11 Tone Clock Piece XI
12 Tone Clock Piece XII
(6:18) 2003, a.k.a. Meditation on Psalm 134
Total playing time: 47:39
13 Tone Clock Piece XIII
(5:00) 2004, a.k.a. For Jack from Jack I
14 Tone Clock Piece XIV
(5:14) 2004, a.k.a. For Jack from Jack II
15 Tone Clock Piece XV
(5:44) 2004, a.k.a. For Jack from Jack III
16 Tone Clock Piece XVI
(5:44) 2004, a.k.a. For Jack from Jack IV
17 Tone Clock Piece XVII
(4:04) 2004, a.k.a. For Jack from Jack V
18 Tone Clock Piece XVIII
(5:12) 2007, a.k.a. Landscape Prelude
19 Tone Clock Piece XIX
(5:06) 2011, a.k.a. Moon, Night Birds, Dark Pools
20 Tone Clock Piece XX
(1:32) 2011, a.k.a. Te Kapowai (Dragonfly)
21 Tone Clock Piece XXI
(3:59) 2011, a.k.a. Early Dawn to Sunrise-Earthfall
22 Tone Clock Piece XXII
(4:21) 2011, a.k.a. Haka
23 Tone Clock Piece XXIII
(4:36) 2011, a.k.a. Pyramids, Symmetries, Crevices of Sleep
24 Tone Clock Piece XXIV
(4:43) 2011, a.k.a. Dream Waves (surfing the planet ...)
Total playing time: 55:19
The Tone Clock is a compositional technique developed initially by Dutch composer Peter Schat in the early 1980s. Schat, who was steeped in the serial tradition, noticed the way in which all possible three-note chords, with the exception of the diminished chord, can be transposed (and, in some instances, inverted as well) to generate all twelve chromatic notes once and once only—in geometrical terms, a ‘tessellation’.
Schat realised that in doing so, you create a strong sense of tonality despite the music’s essentially twelve-tone nature, as the inherent ‘intervallic flavour’ of the three-note chord shines through and colours the entire harmony of the piece. In chromatic theory, there are only twelve possible three-note intervallic groups, ranging from a chromatic cluster (two semitones) up to an augmented chord (two major thirds). Schat calls these twelve groups the ‘hours’, and they form the harmonic basis of most tone clock works.
Jenny McLeod’s contribution to tone clock theory was to take Schat’s basic idea and expand it out to encompass all of the 223 possible intervallic configurations of the chromatic system (known as ‘set classes’ or ‘prime forms’ in Allan Forte’s pitch-class set theory). In her monograph Chromatic Maps I & II, she brings a mathematical rigour and remarkable taxonomization to bear on the project, revealing a vast array of hidden properties of the chromatic system. She also provides a spectacular ‘Grand Unified Theory’ of almost all equal-tempered tonal and chromatic approaches, taking in conventional Western tonality, Messiaen’s modes of limited transposition, Webern’s ‘serial derivation’ and Boulez’s frequency multiplication.
It was in her Tone Clock Pieces, however, that she worked out the intricacies of tone clock theory in practice. While all twelve chromatic pitches are heard often, the particular intervallic qualities of the hours—sometimes open and quartal, sometimes close and clustered, often floating and fluid—give each Tone Clock Piece a distinct ‘aura’ or ‘perfume’. Furthermore, the inherent symmetries in tone clock theory imbue these pieces with a refractive brilliance and a shimmering haze of resonance.
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